As part of its efforts to leverage its peer-to-peer protocol in more legitimate and profitable ways, BitTorrent is developing a web browser that will be more secure, stable and open. Currently under the name Project Maelstrom, the web browser works like a torrent client, turning web surfers into web servers.
But don’t get too excited yet. Project Maelstrom can only apply its defining feature on websites created with peer-to-peer networking in mind. Instead of storing their data in a single server, those websites will be hosted in pieces in different computers. When you visit such a site, you’ll also host parts of the website, in the same way that a torrent client allows you to simultaneously share the very files you’re downloading.
Despite its current incompatibility with HTTP – the current protocol used by the World Wide Web – the benefits of a peer-to-peer web are compelling enough to consider adopting. For website owners and hosting services, it would mean saving money and energy because they’d need fewer servers to host their data. For consumers, it would mean faster loading and more reliable websites. The technology will also be a boon for security and free speech, because a distributed website would be nearly impossible to take down. With no central server to attack, your peer-to-peer website will remain online as long as there’s one seeder supporting it. And if a website is popular, you can bet that there will be hundreds, if not thousands of seeders and leechers online at any given time.
Project Maelstrom is currently in open beta for Windows. You can download the beta from BitTorrent’s website. The browser is based on Chromium, Google’s open source browser, so it should work with the web you know and love. And although there are only a handful of peer-to-peer websites to test it on, Project Maelstrom is actually a torrent client itself, so you can use it to – legally! – download files and stream videos that use peer-to-peer.
If you’re worried that BitTorrent will somehow screw up its project, don’t worry. Geek commenter nofish pointed out ZeroNet, another browser in development that works much like Project Maelstrom but is open source.